Creationists have been strangely quiet today, their silence all the more odd because it’s Bishop Ussher Day! According to Young Earth Creationist dogma the world just celebrated it’s 6,011th 6,010th birthday (or a formless, empty Earth just celebrated it’s birthday, the job not being finished until a few days later, of course), the creation week beginning the night prior to October 23, 4004 B.C. We know this is preposterous now, of course, but in Ussher’s time figuring out the date of the Genesis narrative was big business, many theologians using various sorts of numerology in an attempt to make the Bible seem consonant with history. Indeed, it is a tragedy that so many hold on to a date known to be incorrect, pushing coconut-crunching dinosaurs into the Garden of Eden just so that they “do not have to think about things they do not think about.”
Anything I say about the complete lack of any evidence for an earth 6,011 6,010 years old has already been said, however, and probably much more eloquently at that, so instead I’ll leave you with this quote from Gideon Mantell’s 1854 book Medals of Creation (although Mantell was, in turn, quoting the passage from Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology, the prose originally attributed to a 13th century Arabic manuscript);
“I passed one day by a very ancient and populous city, and I asked one of its inhabitants how long it had been founded? ‘It is, indeed, a mighty city,’ replied he; ‘we know not how long it has existed, and our ancestors were on this subject as ignorant as ourselves.’ Some centuries afterwards I passed by the same place, but I could not perceive the slightest vestige of the city; and I demanded of a peasant, who was gathering herbs upon its former site, how long it had been destroyed? ‘In sooth, a strange question,’ replied he, ‘the ground here has never been different from what you now behold it.’ ‘Was there not,’ said I, ‘of old a splendid city here?’ ‘Never,’ answered he, ‘so far as we know, and never did our fathers speak to us of any such.’
“On revisting the spot, after the lapse of other centuries, I found the sea in the same place, and on its shores were a party of fishermen, of whom I asked how long the land had been covered by the waters? ‘Is this a question,’ said they, ‘for a man like you? this spot has always been what it is now.’
“I again returned ages afterwards, and the sea had disappeared. I inquired of a man who stood alone upon the ground, how long ago the change had taken place, and he gave me the same answer that I had received before.
“Lastly, on coming back again, after an equal lapse of time, I found there a flourishing city, more populous and more rich in buildings than the city I had seen the first time; and when I fain would have informed myself regarding its origin, the inhabitants answered me, ‘Its rise is lost in remote antiquity – we are ignorant how long it has existed, and our fathers were on this subject no wiser than ourselves.'”